In some ways the Giants almost set Saquon Barkley up for failure, or at the very least, set the bar so high it was nearly impossible for the rookie to hurdle it.
They called him “generational’’ so often it might as well have been his first name. General manager Dave Gettleman said Barkley was “touched by the hand of God.”
The Giants went against conventional wisdom — it is not vogue to take a running back as high as the No. 2-overall pick — and eschewed quarterback prospects Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen because of a conviction Barkley was the best player in the draft, a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
Barkley soaked it all in and soared.
The youngest player on the team put in a tour-de-force first season. His rushing and pass catching set all sorts of franchise and NFL records but only scratched the surface on his impact. Barkley spoke softly and carried no big shtick. He showed exemplary durability, playing 852 offensive snaps, on the field 83 percent of the time as a workhorse running back. He displayed remarkable reliability, not fumbling once in 352 touches, extending a non-fumble stretch that dates back to his sophomore year at Penn State.
There were no missteps. He did and said all the right things with the natural grace of a burgeoning leader. Before he bid adieu to his first NFL season, he made sure to put his phone number up on the board, making sure all his offensive lineman had it in case they needed it.
Now comes the hard part: What can he do for an encore?